Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Basic Principles for a Successful Relationship

I have a confession to make.  Short of abuse, I've made just about every relationship mistake there is.  I've been strung along, kept on the hook, changed my core being for another person, you name it, I've done it.  After enough time, though, I made a change.  I took in every bit of information, theory, and idea that I could find to learn how to better prepare myself for future relationships.  I read books, watched videos, scoured forums, listened to interviews, you name it.  Through this process, I learned something very important.  

In relationships, there are only five things that you need to know in order to succeed.  All of the different companies out there will try and sell you on their unique way of looking at things or doing things.  Let me save you a great deal of time and money.  Every technique, idea, or method that somebody tries to sell you comes back to one of these five basic principles.  I figure that since I'm featured in the first Ask the Wise Guys column of 2012 over at Em & Lo, I figure that now would be a good time to share these 5 basic principles with you.  Over the next five posts, I'll share with you these five very simple things that you can use to guarantee a successful relationship future.

Principle 1: Emotions are Controllable

This is far and away the most controversial principle that I'll present. Of the group, I get the most push back from this.  People will say "That's just not possible, it can't be done," or some other objection.  Here's the truth: emotions are controllable.

Scientifically, we know that certain chemicals and combinations of chemicals produce certain emotions in the brain.  The most well know of these chemicals is dopamine and it's ability to produce pleasure in the brain.  We also know that certain actions produce those chemicals.  Take this example.

Stereotypically, when a woman gets dumped, she ends up in fuzzy pajamas, under a pile of blankets, with a pint of ice cream and a chick flick.  Let's take a look at this a bit closer.  Fuzzy pajamas and blankets are both soft and warm.  Both characteristics cause your skin to signal your brain to kick up the dopamine production.  Likewise, a pint of ice cream is delicious and sweet, which further kicks up the dopamine.  Chick flicks generally involve some sort of relationship distress, which allows the woman to feel a bond with the main character.  This, of course, boosts dopamine production.  So, what we've got is an unhappy woman who unconsciously does all of the things necessary to skyrocket her dopamine production and make herself feel better.  This is a perfect example of how we can unconsciously control our emotions.

With a little basic knowledge of how different things make you feel,  you can deliberately control emotions to make ourselves feel better when we're down, or to mellow ourselves out and keep from getting our hopes up.  For many people, this is a very difficult process, but we can learn how to do it.  

For me, the easiest way to control my emotions are with music.  I'm a very musically oriented person, so this is perfect for me.  When I start to feel a little too excited, I will turn on some music that calms me down and brings me back to center.  Likewise, when I start to feel down for one reason or another, I'll listen to some music that I know to bring me back up and feel great about myself.

What does this have to do with a successful relationship?  Actually, it's quite simple.  When in a relationship (or looking for one), we need to have the ability to step back from our emotions and look at the situation that we're in rationally.  When we're caught up in the pain of a breakup, we cannot look and assess why a relationship went sour.  When we're all hyped up about a big date, we psych ourselves up and focus on how we want things to go rather than living in the moment.

Not only can we use this knowledge to counteract negative emotions that we don't want to keep around, but we can also induce positive emotion as well.  When you go out to meet new people on a Friday night, you can crank up the tunes (or eat the food, meditate, whatever helps you) to bring up the great energy and positive emotions that we know will help us out.

When you really think about it, we control our emotions to some degree on a daily basis.  It's only the intensity of completely taking over our emotions that seems new or problematic. 

So emotions are controllable.  That just gets our feet into the door.  In the next post, I'll talk about how a simple way of looking at the world can alter reality for you in a very profound way.

1 comment:

  1. Emotions are absolutely controllable...especially acting on said emotions. As a woman with an emotional regulation disorder, I'm telling you that if I can control my emotions, so can anyone. :)

    Manipulating seratonin and dopamine is one way, for sure. There are also ways to control your thoughts and use radical acceptance to just let things be.

    I've made all the relationship mistakes there are to make as well...but I keep learning. Next week, I'll have a post on "Building a Relationship" -- rather different than maintaining one...